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Choosing A Placement Agency

Trying to decide which placement agency to use during your adoption journey? This blog entry will help you in that decision.

Choosing A Placement Agency

International or Domestic Adoption

International vs Domestic Adoption? Why we decided to adopt internationally.

International or Domestic Adoption

Our Trip To Ethiopia

A recap of our trip to Ethiopia. A firsthand account of a trip that would touch so many lives.

Our Trip To Ethiopia

Pathway To Citizenship

Adoption from Ethiopia was only the first step for many families. Re-adopiton and citizenship are a next step. Your pathway to both.

Pathway To Citizenship

MERKATO

:::MERKATO::: A new documentary by Sosena Solomon about the largest and oldest open air market in Ethiopia. Join Coily Embrace as a sponsor of this film.

MERKATO

Packing To Go To Ethiopia

What should you pack to take with you on your trip to Ethiopia? We have a list for you that includes supplies, medicines and other must have items.

Packing To Go To Ethiopia

Choosing Homestudy Agency

Not sure what to consider when choosing a Homestudy Agency? Here are some things to consider when you make your decision.

Choosing Homestudy Agency

CoC Interview letter




We received a letter from the local USCIS office today that instructs us to show up for an interview they scheduled for March 4th. If we are not able to make this appointment, they want you to write your reason....and mail the letter back.


Since I'm off that day...
...we can (thankfully) make it :)

More to come.




The Passport came today. Post-Placement report is complete



The US Passport arrived today. They returned all of our original documentation: the green card, adoption decree, and the American birth certificate.


Just waiting for the Certificate of Citizenship.




Letter from the US Dept of State



We received a letter today from the US Dept of State (the Passport people)...

...asking us to send either:

Hana's certificate of citizenship if she has one (which she doesn't)

OR one of the following:
Her Green Card (the actual card, not a copy)
Her Ethipian passport with the US entry visa attached with the date of entry stamp
Or some sorta letter from USCIS indicating her legal entry into the country.

We sent her Green Card...and the letter back (as requested). Hopefully indeed they only require one of the afore mentioned pieces of data...

We'll mail it on Monday. And see what happens.



1 year post-placement *visit* is complete


Our agency requires 3 post-placement reports to be done by a social worker @ 3, 6, and 12 months home. Today, we completed our final home-visit for this final report. The agency we used for these reports is Adoption Answers here in DFW area. She was great, friendly, and best of all is a mom herself...so she understands the family!


We received a receipt from USCIS regarding the CoC. Apparently we can expect to wait up to 5 months for this to arrive. And sometimes they ask for an interview for presentation of original documentation, etc. So...we'll see. Hopefully the Certificate will just arrive in the mail one day (soon).

The Passport is supposed to arrive in the mail in about 4-6 weeks.




Social Security card arrives. Passport application is in.



Hana's new social security card arrived in the mail today. That was fast!

The USCIS cashed the $420 check...so they've (obviously received the packet/application).

Hana's passport application was submitted today. They took her new birth certificate and adoption decree. They also took the photos of her, and both me and hubby had to be present with our passport (of which they made copies) to sign in their presence.

The Social Worker is coming next week to complete the final post-placement report.





Social Security Application is in. CoC packet mailed.



Today I went down the the Social Security office to apply for Hana's Social Security card/number. There's a one page application that takes all of 5 minutes to complete. The instructions are pretty clear.

I brought along her Ethiopian and American birth certificates, her Green Card, her Ethiopian passport, the Adoption Decree, Baptism record, and all of my information (drivers license, SS card, passport).

All they asked for was:

The Application
The Adoption Decree
Her Ethiopian birth certificate
My driver's license

The entire process took about 90 minutes. The child does not have to go with you. They give your documents back to you after looking at them. And they give you a receipt (there is no fee) which indicates that a Social Security card should be expected in the mail in about 2 weeks. On the receipt it indicates that Hana is a "U.S. Citizen" so it is not necessary to go back with "additional proof of citizenship" with a U.S. Passport, CoC, or anything else.

Very easy. Shoulda did it sooner!
***

Mailed the packet of stuff to the USCIS for the Certificate of Citizenship today as well.

Passport appointment made for Monday morning. I'll let you know how that goes...




June - December 2009







June-December

Hana continues to thrive. She's learning the rules, and now demonstrates "a difference of opinion" if something happens (or doesn't happen) that displeases her. She threw her very first temper tantrum (on the floor, kicking feet, etc.) We corrected that behavior, and she hasn't repeated such an episode since. She still eats very well. We continue to supplement her full/regular diet with Boost.

She has had mutiple repeat laboratory tests in May (including HIV, Hep B/C, RPR, CBC, chemistry) all were good. It was discovered that her prealbumin remained low despite dietary consult, supplementation, etc. So inflammatory conditions were ruled out...and recommendations to continue Boost/Pediasure remain. Her stools are solid. CXR clear now.

She finishes up her anti-TB medications in a few days. She is about 21 pounds, about 20th percentile for weight/age. She does do a few tricks (touches nose, claps, etc.) She also follows directions quite well. She is a bit more demanding (in terms of wanting to be held, fed, changed, protesting bedtime, etc). But, still very easy-going.

We have submitted all the paperwork for readoption here in America (since she came on on and IR4 visa). Our (hopefully) finalization court date is in 4 weeks! Then...we get to reapply for an American birth certificate, (certificate of citizenship), and finally a US passport.


Early July.

Hana Banana is doing great. 20 pounds, 10 oz, she's right at 50th percentile for height and HC, 20th for weight. She's saying a few simple words such as "Dada" and "Hi." She seems to understand just about everything we say to her, and responds well to simple commands. However, she's not yet talking...though she tries...babbles quite a bit. She's a good eater, but less enthusiastic about mealtimes. She dances to music, and can climb up the backyard slide (which is amazing).

Healthwise, she's doing well. Lots of labs, repeat labs, etc. reveal normal chest xray after 5 months of anti-TB meds (one month left). Everyone in the family remains TB skin-test negative, and everyone is doing well. She has no GI issues, her skin is normal, and her repeat HIV, RPR, Hepatitis, liver/kidney, CBC, CRP, lead level, iron levels, albumin, chemistry, are all unremarkable. Her prealbumin was a bit low, so she continues to get Ensure/pediasure/boost or Carnation instant breakfast in lieu of formula or regular milk as recommended by dietitian.

We enjoyed Easter, Disneyland, and multiple park visits now that the weather is warm. Finally a backyard swing, her own room, and relaxed parents...things are going very well for little Ms. Hana!!



7.30.09 - First trip to the Circus!! Final adoption paperwork and new birth certificate delivered!!
September 2009 - Christening was done at Unity Church. She was so pretty in her white dress...and internalized the entire ceremony, rose petals and all.


ECI - early childhood specialist came to the house to evaluate Hana. Just to check her progress, and see if she needed any extra help. They determined that she is: 19 months adaptive; 20 months cognitive; 26 months fine/gross motor; 30 months social; and 17 months language. This is excellent!! They believe she is actually overall more advanced than her 18 months and that she's been focused more on the social, motor, and likely made up for some initial lack of adaptive skills. They expect her language to be right on target now that these other areas (that she's obviously been focusing on) are above average. They recommended some activities, and reeval as needed in 3 months.





Pathway to obtaining Certificate of Citizenship



I've started the process of obtaining Hana's Certificate of Citizenship. See, she's a citizen...but the proof for show is this certificate. There are some advantages of having this piece of paper, and they are outlined quite well on various Internet sites. Nonetheless, I want Hana to have every scrap of paper possible to prove she's here legally...for college...for jobs...for work...for travel...

SO...

I went on the USCIS website and downloaded the N600 application/instructions and completed the PDF file without much ado. There was a question as to whether or not I should use the N643 instead...but apparently that form is no longer. So the N600 is the correct form (according to the USCIS rep that answered the phone).


Gathering more pieces of paper*:
Copy of the Ethiopian birth certificate
Copy of the new American birth certificate (obtained after the American readoption)
Copy of our (hubby and me) marriage certificate
Copy of our (hubby and me) birth certificates
Copy of our (hubby and me) passport copies
Copy of our (hubby and me) deed to the house to prove that we actually live here
Copy of the Final Adoption Decree - issued by the American courts
Copy of Hana's permanent resident card
Copy of Hana's Ethiopian Passport
Copy of the American entry visa on the Ethiopian passport
2 - 2x2 inch passport photos of Hana (with the child's name and alien registration number in the center of the back of each photo. I went with her name that's on the green card)

*you don't have to resubmit all of these documents as they can "send your prior file with these documents from one USCIS office to another" if you want to wait for that to happen. That sounds like a big mess to me...so I just resubmitted all the forms (afterall, they are just copies).

There were a few questions that weren't quite clear, but the USCIS woman said that the adoption decree covered all the information that I found unclear (such as proof of citizenship, proof of legitimization, proof of custody). I mean, how do I 'prove' legitimization...and what does that mean anyway?!

The person that signs the form must be the original petitioner of the I600 (remember that form?)

A check or money order for $420.

Mail/Fedex to your local USCIS office...
...and wait and see what happens.

Supposedly, sometimes they'll have you come down for an interview to show the original documents and such.

I'll let you know.


***
Time for the (final) 1 year post-placement report to be done by the social worker...so, I'm organizing that too...





Citizenship Documents




The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 indicates that foreign adopted children are US Citizens upon arrival to the United States IF they arrived here on an IR3 Visa. Most children from Ethiopia arrive to the U.S. on an IR4 Visa (i.e. the final adoption takes place here, and not in Ethiopia). In order for the adoption to have been completed in Ethiopia, you would have had to have met the child prior to the adoption.

So, children who arrive on an IR4 Visa must have their adoption recognized by the United States. The way we chose to do this, is to readopt her here in State Court. Once this readoption is complete, the child is a U.S. Citizen...and has the ability to obtain a U.S. Passport, Social Security number, and a Certificate of Citizenship.

Certificate of Citizenship - This procedure protects your child from deportation for a lifetime. Children who arrive on a IR3 visa get the certificate of citizenship (proof of citizenship) mailed to them automatically within 45 days of arrival from the Department of Homeland Security. Children with IR4 visa + readoption, have to *apply* for the CoC, and will not get it automatically. This document is *proof* of citizenship, even if the passport is lost...or whatever. The document is good for a lifetime. This document comes from the Department of Homeland Security.

The Social Security Number - allows you to take the child as a dependent and receive tax credit. Plus, it allows the child to qualify for certain services as they grow up, and allows them to show proof of their eligibility to work, obtain financial aid, etc. This document comes from the Social Security Administration.

The U.S. Passport - allows the child to come back into the country after travel. May not always be 'sufficient proof' of citizenship as they can be lost or forged. U.S. Department of State does Passports.

If these final steps are not completed, and these pieces of paper are not acquired, it's possible that the child:

(even as an adult) can be deported
will not be able to prove that you are her legal parent
may not receive child support in the case of divorce
may not be protected in case of your death
may not be able to re-enter the United States after a vacation
and may not be able to be claimed as a dependent on income taxes

Since we all are well aware how things change...and how one applicable rule can be "forgotten" as time passes, such that, in 10+ years, your child may not be 'eligible for a passport' or some equally asinine new "rule." It's important to get these things done sooner than later...while these current rules are in-place, and proof of citizenship is actually obtainable for your child. The further you get from the adoption...and the older the child gets...the come "complicated" it becomes.




What a difference a year makes!!


What a difference a year makes!! Hana is 21 months old at Cheesecake factory!


19 months old



A year ago!!


It is Done!! - Readoption. Name change. US Citizen!!






Final adoption decree issued in family court today. It is done!!


The law firm representative walked us thru the (very easy) process. Into the courtroom, very nice judge, gift from the court to the baby. Paid more money (about $500). Court issued documents certifed. And onward to celebrate!!

Congratulations Hana Janet Gadu!!




Re-Adoption Time



We've contacted a local adoption attorney to assist us with Hana's readoption. The nice thing about the readoption is that the official name change can be done simultaneously. Our adoption attorney shared with us stories of grown international adoptees who, without the readoption paperwork complete and presentable, were actually deported! Can you imagine being raised in an American family, as an American, then at age 25 being deported to a "foreign" country where you don't know the language, culture, or have any known family?!

With the paperwork, a new birth certificate can be obtained, then certificate of citizenship, subsequently an American passport. With an American passport (and the American birth certificate, plus the CoC, plus the readoption paperwork) deportation is not a risk.

We had to fill out a 1 page informational form for their law firm, send a copy of all the documents from Ethiopia (court papers, medical updates, embassy paperwork, referral information, etc) along with a check for about $400. Within a week we had a court date here in adoption court. That date is July 20th. At that time, if we pass court here...she's officially readopted, and (from my understanding) an American Citizen.




Home 6 months now



Hana is just finishing up her anti-TB meds. She is alert, thriving, and weighs in at about 21 pounds. Clothing size about 18 months. Laughs alot, starting to cry/demand more (toys, attention, food, etc). She follows instructions *very* well. And just LOVES to be 'involved' in everything. 6 month postplacement social worker to visit next week. Re-adoption paperwork was submitted...




Update - 6 months post-placement







In summary, Hana's doing very well. Almost 16 months old. Almost 21 pounds. Very bright, adaptable, easy-going, and constantly trying to impress you with giggles and smiles (which is very effective, which is why she does it all the time). Medically, doing great. Here are a few updated pix at 6 months post-placement.




3 months home



Hana is starting to walk. She takes a step, or two, before she falls down. Getting to this point took quite a bit of "home physical therapy" with 1 hour "sessions" about twice a week, and mini daily sessions every morning and evening. At first she was terrified of moving her legs while standing. She'd stand okay, but when you asked her to "come here" as you squat 3 feet away, reaching out your hands...she'd just stand there and cry. Crying to the point I considered perhaps there was something actually/physical painful about walking for her. But...now she's getting over it...and jolting forward off balance as she lunges for my hands...squealing in delight the entire time.

She's only gained 2 pounds so far. Expected weight gain is more along the lines of 1-2 pounds per month for a child without a history of malnutrition. Given her history, and expected "catch up" growth, we'd like to see more of a weight gain, so Pedi recommended adding boost, ensure, pediasure, or carnation instant breakfast to supplement her diet.

Hana was a self-soother, which is excellent. But so much so, that she almost didn't *want*...or rather *expect* to be held while sleeping/relaxing, or hugged and rubbed. If you sneak into the bedroom while she's sleeping, and rub her head, she'd wake right up. She couldn't/wouldn't fall asleep in your arms. It's like, she didn't understand that touch doesn't have to stimulate. And she certainly didn't understand falling asleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed.

...so we've been doing (almost) nightly cuddles, rub downs, kisses, and lounging in the "family bed.".

Hana is a very intelligent baby. Tell her something once, show her something once, teach her something once...and she's got it!! She's babbling, smiles for everyone, waves "bye," and scoots as fast as her little legs can crawl into the kitchen at meal times when she realizes brother and sister are running to the dinner table for a meal.

I've started using organic/natural products on her (as with the rest of the family). See, initially I didn't use organic stuff on her because either: it wasn't medicated; it wasn't strong enough; or it wasn't readily available. Now that we're home, and she's decontaminated with soft, well-healed skin, less blow-out diaper poops, no URI, no distention, etc, I feel that gentle stuff may be sufficient.

Diet: now that she's one, she's eating everything we eat (sans peanuts) - including eggs, and milk. Yep, she's tolerating lactose, which is good. Most likely her GI tract has healed from the parasites, viruses, and protozoa/giardia. The intestinal villi are functioning, and she's tolerating everything. I still give her probiotic, vitamin supplements, and the occasional reglan for spit-ups.

Grooming: Hana now gets a bath about 4x/week. She loves very warm bubble bath with lavender added, she gets a shampoo and conditioning treatment. Aveeda lotion, then natural oils on her body. Powder. I use isopropyl alcohol to clean her ears, and any spot that looks like it's trying to get infected. I use triamcinolone to treat the residual/minor flakiness that occurs when needed. I use Aveda Beautifying Composition on her hair, and a boar bristle brush to help stimulate her scalp. She get her 4 teeth brushed, and her earrings cleaned every bath. Nails clipped, and diaper cream...

...phew, lots of work goes into this grooming ritual. But, as she heals, and her skin improves, and I become more comfortable that she's okay...this will decrease in the same way it has for Haley and Ian over time.

Lastly, we've been going to Pedi ID (infectious disease) specialist for a couple of months now (since hospital discharge). Her gastric aspiration eventually grew out AFB (positive for TB); and she was started on 4 anti-TB meds. She's been taking those for 2.5 months. We have a public health nurse that comes to the house. He administered PPD (TB tests) to everyone else in the house...and they were all negative. He will come out again in the next few week to repeat the PPD placement one last time. Hana has not been sick at all with sign/symptoms of active TB. The AFB were sensitive to all TB meds (which is excellent). She continues to take Rifampin and INH for another 3.5 months. Pedi ID said that the BCG vaccine kept it from disseminating, and us adopting her...saved her life. They are all confident that she would have certainly succumbed to this disease (as her mom did) had she not began treatment ASAP.

Post-placement report - our post placement report is due this month. Will have to call social worker to come over for a visit with Hana soon.
***



It's been 3 months!! Hana is taking small, unbalanced steps. She's still sleeping very well. She's babbling, still can't quite understand her. She's a very happy, easy-going baby...but she is started to express herself a bit more. For instance, if Haley and Ian take something from her, she "yells at" them. If someone upsets her...usually with the work "NO," she will make it clear that she prefers the other parent for awhile...the one that didn't say "no." If a new person comes up to her, she may (or may not) cry...and reach/lean towards a more familiar person.

When we pick her up from daycare, she shrieks and crawls over to us with such speed!! And when I arrive home at 6 or 7pm, she is just as "excited" and loud, and yelling, as Ian and Haley. "MOOOOMMMMMYYYY!!"

On the healthcare front: She has gained 3 pounds and up to 17 pounds 9oz...putting her on the curve at about 3rd percentile. Her head circumference is still solidly at the 40th percentile. Her length at about the 25th percentile (or so). So she still has a bit of weight catch up to do. After consultation with a dietitian (and multiple pediatricians), it was recommended that we stop the formula, and instead give her pediasure/ensure or boost; give her all table food with added butter, sour cream, cheese, etc. Okay to give peanut butter and eggs now (African kids tend *not* to have all the food sensitivities that we find here in the United States....apparently their immune systems have *other* things to do then to attack peanut or egg allergens!!)

She completed just over 2 months of Rifampin, INH, PZA, and ethambutol. The PZA and ETB was stopped per protocal after 2 months, and the RIF and INH to be continued until end of June (6 months). Pedi ID doc* is happy with her progress, states that one more set of (optional) blood tests will be done, per my request (to check her liver and kidney function, and also, since her prealbumin was low, that too), and end of course CXR. He is confident that Hana's TB is gone already, but continuation of meds for 6 months (even if the disease was dissiminated, which in her case it is not) is standard. He said he doesn't need to see Hana again. He also said that a negative PPD at 12 weeks post possible exposure will rule out the possibility that anyone else was exposed to TB.

(*pedi ID doc is this highly recommended guy who worked all over the world including Africa, Cambodia, Thailand/Asia, and has lots of exerience with international adoptees, TB, and international pediatric infectious diseases...and the fact that he thinks everything is all good with Hana, that she's absolutely doing better, not contagious, and TB-free, is reassuring).

So, everyone had a repeat PPD (TB skin test) placed...and all were negative still!! So no TB exposure in Africa, Dubai, or home here with Hana. Eventhough they say she can't really spread TB...common sense tells me that it is indeed *possible.* How could it not be? And the pedi ID doc agreed with me. So we are super happy that we retain our non-conversion status with regard to PPD.

We had our 3-month post placement visit last week. Interview, clean house...you know the drill. Hana was perfect...happy and full of personality. Ian was home as well, and he was actually perfect as well. Haley, was at school.

Social worker was very interested in the "before" and "after" regarding her health status, growth, and adjustment. Wasn't so interested in much of anything else. She stayed here about 90 minutes. Wanted to walk thru the house, see Hana's room/bed, and spend a bit of time playing with Hana. It was light, and kinda fun to talk to someone about our experiences so far with Hana at home. She offered a bit of insight, stories, etc. And that was that. I made a collage from this site to include with the post-placement report that has to be submitted to the placement agency at 3, 6 and 12 months, to be done by a social worker. Then once a year thereafter until Hana is 18...to be done by us.








Standing now. Taking 1 step at a time. Very happy and easy-going baby!!







February - 1st Year of Life




Early February Update:

People often ask "how is Hana adjusting?"

Hana *has* ADJUSTED!! It is the rest of the family that's still *adjusting.* Meaning, Haley is a great big sister, but at times feels the urge to let the new baby know...that she is indeed, in charge. Ian is accepting, mostly. At times, however, when Hana decides she wants to explore his car collection...he has a fit. The thing is, when Haley 'explores' (i.e. takes over) his car collection...he's okay with it. Maybe Ian is trying to establish his "rank" as big brother. Mommy is now more relaxed now that the baby seems to be on a huge healthy upward swing. And Daddy...well, he was the most flexible, easily adjusted member of our family from day one.


"Honey, does it ever seem like she's not quite our child yet - since she just kinda showed up?"

His response: "See, to me, they *all* just sorta 'show-up'...so I feel exactly the same as when they placed the other two in my arms and proclaimed me the Daddy."

I've been in contact with some other families who adopted with us...and they are having some "adjustment issues," but mostly with children over 3. I can imagine...

Hana is doing very well. She is standing...just for a few seconds at a time, unsupported. She still eats like a champ. I think she has a "reserve stomach" or something, as much as she eats. I've switched her formula from soy to lactose-free dairy at the recommendation of the dietitian. The GI specialist supported my recommendation to order additional blood tests to evaluate nutritional status, lead exposure, etc (things that are not immediately necessary...but will be as time passes).

This month we had a party INTRODUCING the baby to friends and family in Orange County, CA. We also took a trip to the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex to visit friends there. Enjoy the pix of us at Ruth's Chris!! At the "Sip and See." On the airplane. And hanging out in the Metroplex!!

***

What an incredible first year of life the baby has had!!

We celebrated her first birthday last weekend - and what fun she had!! We had a small, little party at home. Grandma and Grandpa came up from Orange County. We had cake. We had ice-cream. We had hats, candles, gifts, and goodie bags. All the bday essentials!!

Hana continues to thrive. She's standing for secords, unsupported. She even tries to take little steps...but chickens out and sits down. She seems to say "mama," "dada," and "dog," but it's not reproducible or consistent...so maybe not. She's eating everything. Her poops are solid and only once or twice daily. Whereas when we first met her her "life light" was dim and flickering...

...now, it can light up the night sky!!

What else can I say?

The family is doing great. It seems as though the "adjustment issues" have plateaued. Ian now considered Hana apart of the family, in that he actually includes her in his 'drawings' of our family picture. He is always sure to include her when he's assigning everyone a "type of car." (See, he's into hotwheels, and everyone in the family has a certain color, or style...that varies daily...and is determined by him). So it's a huge deal for him to "assign" her a type of car!!

I catch Haley playing "Mommy" with Hana...lecturing her and such. It's kinda funny to me becaue she's giving Hana the same lectures I give her. When I stand back and spy...I feel a sense of pride...like Haley is actually *listening* to (and learning from) me. But, I quickly catch myself because (obviously) Haley shouldn't be "playing the Mommy" with her sister.

One last thing until next time: After reading the book, There's No Me Without You, I find myself wondering...what was life like for Hana before she went to the orphanage? Was her mother healthy enough to nurse her? Did she hold her...or perhaps she realized she was sick, and didn't want to infect the baby, so she didn't hold her much? Were there other children (siblings) that maybe died before Hana was born...and when Hana failed to thrive by 3 months of age, did her parents realize she was going to die like the other(s) if they didn't do a different thing? Did her mother know she, herself, was dying, and did she request that the baby be given to an orphanage? What about the Uncle that reliquished her? Does he have his own family...or maybe he's keeping some older siblings, and just couldn't handle one more? I wonder what Hana remembers...of those early months, the transit from the satillite orphanage in Southern Region to the main Toukoul in Addis. Does she see a her mother's features when she looks at my face?

By the time she's old enough to tell me...she will have forgotten. But right now, I bet she remembers. And that amazes me. In her short one year...she has experienced so much. And probably KNOWS it!! But, is unable to share it.

Kinda makes me wish we had some USB wires that we could connect from her temporal lobes to our laptop...and watch the slide show of her life so far!!



Introduction


Hana had her introduction party, organized by Grandma Janet! Family came over to her Orange County house, had snacks, drinks, gave gifts, and met the newest member of the family.






Mid January 2009





Hana's doing well. She eats like a pro. She's standing with support. She's starting to cruise. She is comfortable at home now...and doesn't cry when everyone is out of her direct line of vision.

She's out of the hospital...all tests were done. She had a follow-up pedi appointment today, which showed a half pound weight gain. Not much, but we'll take it!!

She's LOVIN' Haley!! Her and Ian still have to find their places in the family.

Here are a few candid pix of her...eating, bedtime reading, bath splashing, napping. Ears are pierced!!
***

Hana's doing well. From a medical POV, she's doing very well. It's difficult to document her weight gain because sometimes her clothes are on...sometimes the diaper is full, etc. And when you are only 14 pounds...every ounce counts!! But she *seems* bigger and heavier (very scientific, I know)

As far as bonding...there isn't an issue. It's almost "suspicious" that she's SO comfortable with us so quickly...only meeting us last month. But the Universe...has a plan. She HATES to be told "no." It SO hurts her feelings...and she cries, and cries, and cries...because (as Haley would say) "we're unhappy with her." Of course we're VERY happy with her...but she's still learning what 'no' means.

She sleeps thru the night. She gets VERY excited when we walk into the room. She spazzes whenever she sees a bottle. Even in Target, when we pass the baby isle...she spazzes...cuz she KNOWS there's baby food nearby. It's hilarious to watch!!

She's been completely decontaminated...bug juice, worm juice, etc. Ready to start daycare on Tuesday. She's no longer congested, and her belly is normal. She still has lots of poops tho'.

She crawls all over. She loves to play with her siblings...and will do so for hours before needing a break. She's not so much into TV (yet). She still eats everything presented....eventually. She cruises. She babbles, coos, and LOVES to laugh out loud. She's realizing the concept of "gravity" and when you lift her high, you can see her eyes get big (whereas before she loved it...now she's like "wait a minute...I'm up kinda high.")

What else can I say?

The family is adjusting well. Not without little bumps...but nonetheless. Adding a new family member to the "mobile" requires everyone to adjust just a bit to regain the balance.


Have you read There's no Me Without You? A book about Ethiopian orphans. LOVED IT. If you are at all interested in this little girl...you'll love this book!! Go get it...and read it.




It's a New Year


The New Year is here.

Hana's doing very well. She had a short hospitalization so the various test/exams the pedi wanted could be done easily...without taking 6 weeks of office visits, etc. Tests included labs, radiographs of her chest, hips, nutritional status and dietary eval, child psychology (to see how she's adjusting, and help if she's having any trouble. Also to evaluate her development and recommend physical therapy, counseling, or whatever.) She received some vaccinations, etc. etc. She was such a trooper!!

Her skin is almost 'normal' - after two scabies treatments, topical steroids, antibiotics, etc.

She's eating pretty much whatever. She's a very happy baby...and has joined the family nicely!!




1st appointment with her pediatrician



Hana had her first pedi appointment with Dr. K 2 days ago. She agreed with all of the treatment/changes we made. Hana was active, smiling, and well-appearing. Her physical exam was essentially unremarkable with normal sized organs and no evidence of infection of her skin, ears, eyes. Her hips are "loose" and her skin still has some healing to do, but that may resolve as she begins to use her little legs more. We're going to check xrays, however, and make sure her hips are okay.


Labs reveal a normal CBC (complete blood count), normal lytes, HIV negative. CXR requires a f/u xray because of her history/possible exposure, a PPD (TB test) was placed, and stool studies were ordered. She's standing with support, and her hips/legs seem to be 'normalizing'. She doesn't do the wide-leg flail when lifted. She holds her own bottle...basically, she's essentially doing all the things a "normal" 10-month old should be doing!!


She recognizes and prefers us over "strangers" and is beginning to cry for us, reach for us, and come to us. She's beginning to understand the word "no." She's eating very well.


Haley and Ian are adjusting. Ian was initially "not a big Hana fan." But now he's more accepting. Haley...is LOVIN' being big sister!!





1st Christmas



Today is Hana's first Christmas!! She woke this morning wide-eyed with *no clue*.

When we sat her down and opened her gifts, she was facinated, and engaged.

Overall she's doing well. Her first pedi appointment is tomorrow.

She's eating well, I've been treating her skin with a combination of Aveeno baths every day, and various creams/ointments as discussed before. Her diaper area *really* cleared up with the nystatin. Her feet look better after treatments with alcohol and nystatin as well. I treated her legs/scalp/torso with steriod ointment which helped tremendously, and helped differentiate the papules (that are likely from - hopefully - past scabies infection), secondary excoriations, and atopic reaction to all of the above. The chicken pox are healed, but one on her right pinky toe is still infected but looking better with local wound care.

We're planning to stay close to home today...and maybe get out tomorrow and see friends/family.




Treatments and Progress



12.23.08 - As I mentioned, when we first saw Hana, she was somewhat somnolent. We knew she'd just woken from her nap because we *absolutely* couldn't disturb her during her regimented eat/sleep cycle. She didn't smile (expect to the kids), but she didn't cry or act afraid. We spent about an hour with her, and gave her back. She started rubbing her eyes, and we didn't want to overwhelm her.

We checked her out of the orphanage for a 'day trip' with us. Upon arrival to the Sheraton we gave her a nice warm oatmeal bath. As we undressed her, we noticed some VERY infected, swollen, chickenpox. They were oozing pus, and the surrounding tissue was red and tender. The worse was on her scalp and neck. All I could picture is bacteria, scabies, and whatever else, crawling around in the pox...building little microbial villages!! Her feet were like trench foot, wet looking, skin peeling, between the toes looked like tinea (mixed with pox)...horrible. And her little nails were so long, that her scratching only worsened the situation.

We treated the water with antimicrobial tea tree oil. We washed her hair with lice shampoo. Cleaned behind the ears. We then treated her with Aveeno cream, anti-itch cream, steriod ointment to her body, antibacterial ointment to the infected areas, antifungal/steroid cream to the feet. Anti itch powder to the torso, and desitin to her diaper area (which was very raw from her profuse, watery, urine-appearing diarrea). Seriously, when I pressed on her belly, urine-like stool would squirt out her rectum. I pressed and pressed on her belly, bicycling her legs and patting her belly. She'd intermittently cry (and of course I thought "oh no, she had intusseseption!!" William stood nearby and asked "could she have some sort of obstruction or maybe cholera - as 1000s of people are dying in Zimbabwe of Cholera at the moment). All we could do it pat, pump, and press her belly. We went thru 5 consecutive diapers and 3 large towels...but finally her belly was less distended. The pictures are taken after this process...so you can imagine the "before."

I started her z-pak...but instead of double dose on day one only (or a short course of double dose), I gave her a full 5 days of double dose. I gave her some Tylenol cold (yes, I think it's good for babies). I suctioned her nose, applied erythromycin to her eyes, and cortisporin otic to her ears. I used alcohol swabs to clean between her toes, and her pox. I gave her multivitmins. I gave her the formula she'd been on in the orphanage.

10 minutes after completion of her formula bottle (a bottle she wouldn't/couldn't hold) she started having what appeared to be abdominal pain again...and promptly pooped that clear yellow stuff again. Belly distended.

We went down to the pool, spent an hour in the sun. Then, it was time to go back to the orphanage. We thought it best to take her back as it was Sunday, and the plebotomist was due early Monday morning at Toukoul...and if we/she missed the blood draw...we couldn't have our embassy appointment.

We were able to check her out the next morning. Promptly gave her another oatmeal bath...and repeated the above treatments. Then I decided to switch her formula to soy-based lactose free (prepared with bottled water). I started massive amounts of pedialyte (and even gave her some pediasure which is gluten/lactose-free). I clipped her nails, and fixed her hair. Her infected pox were already looking better.

After the embassy appointment, Hana slept, literally 18 hours. We woke her to change her diaper, and to give her isomil bottles. I considered it was the Tylenol cold...but now (days later as she still gets the tylenol cold) I can say it wasn't that. Her breathing was *much* better with the tylenol cold on board. I think (in retrospect) that she was just overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and now that she was feeling better with less abdominal pain gas/distention, less itching, less congestion, less coughing, etc...she was just relaxed enough to actually sleep soundly!!

I continued to repeat the bath, creams, ointments, meds, antibiotics, pedialyte, isomil, vitamins, tylenol, alchohol swabs, tea tree oil, etc. etc. for the rest of our time there. By day 3-4 she was a TOTALLY different baby. She went from being so uncomfortable and ill-appearing, to an active infant!!

Developmentally she demonstrated only very few milestone accomplishments. She didn't even hold her own bottle, and she's 10 months old!! She didn't reach for people, didn't support her weight on her legs, and her she barely moved her knees/feet. I started thinking that maybe she had some neurologic issue going on. She would draw back her feet when stimulated/tickled, but spontaneously? No.

Also, she held (still holds) her legs in this funny extended, abducted, exterally rotated (like she's in 2nd position doing ballet or something) position. Her hips seemed dislocated and she constantly had her legs open very wide (like she's been riding a horse since she was born - OR more likely, she was born vaginally breech). Her facial features reminded me of a preemie baby. And she would only arch her back and cry as a "request" to be picked up. Very strange.

We've been working on that. She's now holding her own bottle. Her legs still flare out when she's lifted, but she will bring them down and support her weight on them now. She will reach for an object, and even starting to reach for people (instead of simply doing that back arch thing). She kicks her legs (like any other baby)...

...and is only pooping BROWN poop once a day!!!

Her belly is not distended, and she doesn't cry post meal. Her chicken pox are healed, and no longer infected. She no longer has that wet cough, or those "trench feet." She's hydrated enough to drool, cry tears, and her skin looks better. She's babbling louder, has an easy smile, her upper teeth have now broken the gumline, she's crawling now...and all of this wasn't being demonstrated just 1 week ago).

She has her first pedi appointment on 12/26/08. I wrote to the pedi, and gave her the (brief) scoop. Asked for a repeat CXR and blood testing, including hepatitis/HIV. Her tests from Ethiopia are all unremakable...and they did the HIV test 3 times (once for the referral/intake, once a couple of months later, and one last time for her US embassy appointment since the US wants to know HIV status before allowing immigration). All were negative. But, nonetheless...

She's doing well on the Isomil, pediasure, pedialyte. I've continued the Aveeno baths, topical creams and ointments, and multi-vits. I started probiotics. She's eating jar baby food mixed with rice cereal. I've added a bit of fat/butter to her food at times. She sleeps thru the night, despite the time change, travel, etc. She goes to sleep about 8pm, wakes at midnight for a bottle and a diaper change. Then sleeps until about 7am. She'll play with the crib toys for 30 minutes or so...and we get up close to 8am and give her breakfast. After breakfast she'll take a morning nap at 9am...and sleep until 11am. She'll get a bottle, and stay awake until 8pm. At least this is how's it's been the last few days we've been home.

She's doing MUCH better.





DETAILS OF OUR TRIP




LAX to Dubai: We rented a mini-van and drove from NorCal to SoCal. Had dinner/breakfast with family in the OC. And off we went to LAX.

Of course we had massive amounts of luggage with all of our donations n' things. It worked out well that Grandma/Grandpa were there to see us off (and help us with our bags, our kids, our...stuff).

We went thru security with no issues - despite me having crazy amounts of liquid meds, juice, pediasure, pedialyte, various pills, etc. They didn't even ask us to "remove our ziplock baggie" with our 3oz toiletries - which was WONDERFUL!! AND we managed to "sneak" thru plane boarding with 2 carry-on bags each (the max size bag plus a backpack). To our credit the backpacks only had blankies and pillows...and each child carried their own.

Once on the plane we were *very* impressed with the level of service, the media options (hundreds of new movies, sitcoms, dramas, music, games). They had GPS and cameras in the nose and bottom of the plane, so you can track your travel from start to finish. On this airshow, they tell you your current speed, estimated time 'til arrival, altitude, local time and temp, etc. etc.

The food was outstanding...the meals frequent, the lavatories clean (the entire 16 hours), smelled okay, and big. They had child friendly meals, gluten-free meals, toys and actives handed out to the kids, child channels, games, movies. They give out warm (lemon fresh) 'real' towel at the beginning and end of the trip...to refresh. They give you booties, eye covers, ear plugs, toothbrush. The ride was smooth, ontime, our luggage made it all the thru. I didn't have to pull out any of the games/activities we'd brought to keep the kids quiet. It was maybe the best plane trip I've experienced. No "extra" charges for pillows/blankets/headsets/meals. They gave us "real" silverware and not sporks. I hope our trip on the way back is just as comfortable.

Words of a 6 year-old traveler: "Mommy, that was the shortest 16 hours ever, much shorter than the 4 hours of this flight" (regarding the comparison between flight 1 LAX to DXB, vs flight 2 DXB to ADD)

(Note: our travel agent didn't do a good job...and I don't recommend him. More details later, but because hubby travels frequently, he was able to negotiate/plan/correct the "errors" of our travel agent).





We got off the plane and headed for our "free" hotel. Turns out the "free" hotel was a shuttle (and a trip thru security/customs/multiple lines) away. So we decided to just stay at the hotel *IN* the airport. Which was perfect. We checked in to that hotel...and by 9:45p or so, we were ready for dinner...and bed.

But first...we decided to put down our things...and take a Taxi tour around . This city is like Las Vegas!! HOWEVER, whereas Vegas is all FAKE...imitations n' such...this *entire city* was so GLAMOUROUS!! It seemed as if everyone was driving a luxury car. The buildings were glass, no liter, graffiti, just...like a perfect city that looked like the Las Vegas strip.

We saw the only 7 star hotels in the world. Of course we had to stand outside of the gate...and take pix from afar. But, WE WERE THERE!! And then we drove around some man-made island they call Atlantis. Then we went to the Persian Gulf ...AND PUT OUR HANDS IN THE WATER (and saw Iran in the distance)!! We danced around the beach for a bit. It was dark...but way crowded for 11 at night. It was warm. The water was clear (even at night that was obvious).

Then, back to the airport....and this airport - is more like a palace than an airport. Even the clocks are Rolex on the walls. Marble everywhere. Waterfall indoors. Speaking of 'indoors'...we got to drive by (therefore see from a distance) the indoor skiing place. We got back to the airport...and went to McDonalds (it was our *only* option, trust me). Then took wonderful hot showers and climbed into bed...exhausted...Slept until we had to leave for Addis, feeling very alert and 'in sync' with local time. Had a quick bite to eat, and on to our gate/plane.

The flight from to Addis was only 3.5 hours. BUT, the plane wasn't loaded with endless activities/movies n' stuff. So we had to pull out some of our toys/games we packed. They served a wonderful breakfast, however. The flight was good. Both had lots of kids on the plane, which we like.

Towards the end of the second flight, it got a bit bumpy. Nothing too bad, kinda like riding in a car. Well, Ian has a cold...and it was naptime, so he was grumpy. And the fact that he had to relinquish all of his toys in preparation for landing...didn't help his mood. But, he didn't cry...but he wasn't happy. And poor Haley, was playing a computer game, and got motion sickness. Poor thing. All we could do is hold back her hair and rub her forehead with a wipe :o(

But, she recovered the instant we stepped off the plane. So much so that she was instrumental in helping us lug our excessive amount of luggage thru getting Visas, Customs, and out to the Sheraton Shuttle. (more on how to do this later)


The Shearton: As we drove from the Airport to the Sheraton, we have an opportunity to see some of the city. I was expecting to see...people sitting on mounds of dirt, with starving kids laying on their laps...flies all around. I was expecting to see people starving on the side of the road...and desperation/poverty unimaginable.

But, actually what I saw reminded me of New Orleans. Apartments with no screens, lots of walking, young women in jeans with very nice hair. There were dilapidated buildings, people selling/trading things on street corners, and the traffic…was crazy. There weren’t that many vehicles on the road (speaking as someone from LA), but there are no traffic rules or street signals, so you have to be a very intuitive driver – be able to anticipate the flow and movements of other drivers. Yeah, I saw the goats, and dusty children playing in the open spaces. But, there was positive vibe in the air (unlike in New Orleans where you feel the desperation), everyone just going/doing/being.

I saw people of all complexions, a few caucasions just walking the street along side of everyone else...right at home. All in all, not the dirt huts with starving/wasted people on the side of the road as always shown on American TV.

But let me say...that when we turned into the Sheraton driveway...you could almost hear the angels sing!! Once past the armed security guards, and the metal detectors and such...all we could do is look around and say "woooowwwww!!" I think the contrast more than anything is what's so "Wow."

The service we experienced upon our arrival was superb. We felt like one of the many celebrities they host (Beyonce, Angelina and Brad, Clinton). Everyone very helpful, smiling, nice. Unlike the service you get at most (even high end) American Hotels...where everyone is obviously *acting* nice...these people actually genuinely seem to be happy, nice people.

I’ve stayed at many hotels. St. Regis in DC, Ritz Carlton in Pasadena and Marina del rey. I've been to Bacara Resort more than a few times. This Sheraton is *BETTER THAN* all of them...well, maybe not Bacara...but you get the point. And all we've done is checked in and came to our rooms!!


Toukoul:
Le Toukoul Orphanages (36) - Actions View album View photo book




We met with the attorney, Abebe on Saturday 12/13/08. He said there is some sort of issue…and we stressed about whether or not we'd get Hana's visa in time to leave as planned on Friday. Needless to say, it was a very frustrating meeting. We did get the opportunity to meet Hana.





The orphanage is relatively small. It’s looks bigger on the pix. We were so excited to turn onto the dirt road leading up to the orphanage (a road we recognized from blogs/youtube). There were a few little boys (beautiful little boys) who came up to us. We went over to the playground and both Ian and Haley had a blast playing with the little boys. Then we spent some time learning simple phrases in Amharic from the children.





Finally, Hana was awake. They allowed Ian and Haley to go inside with the babies while the prepared Hana to meet us. They cleaned her up, fixed her hair…and then…we saw them. Walking down the side of the building. Hana with 2 puff-tails.





She is like a little doll. She was mellow, didn’t cry, but didn’t smile either…at least not until we sat her down alone with her sister and brother. Then, she smiled to them.

***



It was initially VERY stressful. I thought Abebe was full of shit. I was frustrated that Radu said it was okay to travel, only to hear Abebe say that everything wasn't ready. I was pissed that our phone bill had a $300 charge to Ethiopia for calling the Embassy, where we stayed on hold for 30 minutes...never speaking with anyone...and to get there (after receiving an email from them stating that it was OK to travel as I specifically asked if all of the needed documents were there - and not just the Visa 37), and realize that the medical eval wasn't complete...and they wanted to hold our file for a week before issuing the travel/immigration visa!!

Alicia was STILL there and had to *wait that extra week* as her stuff wasn't ready either!! There was another family in the guest house waiting (going on 2 weeks) for papers to complete the adoption of their 10 year old child. CRAZY!! Why did Radu tell them/us it was okay to travel...??

My husband works in politics...and "offered" to call our friend the Congresswoman Barbara Lee, among other people...PLUS the Ethiopian Ambassador in the US to "help Abebe get our Visas done." That's when things started to move for us (and the other familes there with us). We ended up getting our Visa on Wednesday as expected. But, oh the stress!!

Then when we got Hana...she was SO very ill. If I would have saw her in my emergency room, she'd be admitted to the hospital for IV fluid, antibiotics, surgery consult, peds consult, GI consult. Not only did she have chickenpox that were badly infected, a respiratory tract infection, and some sort of rash that I treated as scabies...she had this profuse watery (urine-appearing) diarrhea...and she's VERY thin and small. I'd call it 'failure to thrive'. I thought maybe she had/has a parasite. I thought maybe they were dishonest about the HIV results. I thought maybe she had celiac disease, or some sort of lactose/formula/dietary issue.

Hana was so lethargic, it crossed my mind that perhaps she wouldn't even live long enough to make it back to California!! I was crying, comparing her to other (fatter) babies (as "proof" that something was indeed wrong with her). Her belly was SO distended and rigid...full of air...I thought maybe her bowel was perforated.

My other 2 kids were there, and I didn't let them get too close to Hana...as she was so sick...and I didn't want 3 sick babies!! I did (eventually) speak with the peditrician who was very beautiful, nice, and obviously was familiar with each child's issues and such...but I didn't think she'd considered *all* of the possible ailments...and didn't have a good/acceptable explanation as to why she didn't. My sister is an RN, so together we went thru the medical records with a fine tooth comb...and Hana has been on amoxicillin for months!! Treating what, I don't know. In the initial medical report we got with her referral, they said her mom died of TB, but the baby's chest x-ray was normal. It *so* wasn't. She had bilateral (both lungs) pneumonia...or maybe it's TB?? I asked the pedi there if it's possible that the rash is scabies, the cough and congestion requiring amoxicillin for month could be TB, and if her "failure to thrive" could be from from
TB, her diarrhea from a parasite, etc. She denied all of the above...and stated that the baby was treated for TB (which is not possible since TB treatment is for over a year, it is not documented, and no repeat CXR was done to see if the pneumonia had cleared).

Anyway, I brought tons of stuff because I read the blogs and expected the above issues. I gave her zithromax...had scabies meds, cold meds, ear and eye drops, etc. I gave Hana an oatmeal bath every day, with tea tree oil and applied steroid and antifungal creams. I switched her formula to soy-based and spoon-fed her rice, applesauce and bananas. Her abdomen went down, her stools became "normal." Her cold symptoms improved, and she was a totally different baby. By the time she had 3 days with us...I was confident that she would be fine traveling (and not die before we left Addis!!). Seriously, that's how sick she was!!

Add that to the stress we had dealing with Abebe...and our embassy (or really the thought I having to extend our trip, rather). We were...completely stressed out, and couldn't enjoy Addis until Thursday. We squeezed all the rest of it into 2 days!!

AHOPE (23) - Actions View album View photo book
Maya and I went to AHOPE Orphanage for HIV+ children. There we met some wonderful children. They were overall healthy appearing...considering. They were happy, pleasant, and glad to see us. One little girl followed us around, and loved the camera.


We went back and gave a medical lecture to the children and staff. We gave medications, and met the medical staff.

Guest House, Dinner with friends, Merkado (33) - Actions View album View photo book
We did end up going to our Embassy appointment as planned, despite...and subsequently getting our Visa for Hana to travel. Thereafter were were excited enough to enjoy some of the other activities we'd planned.



We visited the guest house. Very nice, and met some wonderful families. We decided to *not* go out with the group as we were so drained after a long week of worry and frustration. Besides, eventhough Hana was 1000% better after some TLC and a Z-pak, Tylenol cold, creams and powders, etc...we didn't want to push it.


We had dinner prepared by friends in Addis. Ruta and Tades decided they wanted to contribute to the World by volunteering with an NGo...so they moved themselves and their FIVE children into a modest home there for one year.



Finally, we haggled ourselves some great gifts at the Merkado. Notice the donkeys, the people, the store-fronts...



...and Ian flirting with the beautiful Ethiopian girls!!

History Museum and Fasika Lunch (21) - Actions View album View photo book
We visited the History Museum and saw the bones of Lucy. It was a facinating museum...but it would help if they'd invest just a bit of resources into it's presentation.


We also had the wonderful opportunity to have an authentic Ethiopian lunch done right...at a very popular spot. The kids did very well...but you'll see that Ian picked up the injera and ate it like a burrito instead of tearing off a piece properly.


Hana photos and going home (28) - Actions View album View photo book
A few pictures of Hana Janet. Her first bath, her skin and abdomen, her next bath...where she fell asleep in the water (talk about relaxing). This was likely her first experience with baths since they don't bathe the kids at the orphanage. After treatment...she was a whole new baby!!



Also are pictures of us all packed and ready at the Sheraton, on the plane...in Dubai sleeping at the Airport hotel (again)...and finally in the limo at SFO. Upon arrival to our house, Grandma and Grandpa had balloons, signs, cakes, and FOOD waiting for us. Our house warmed, our Christmas tree full of lights, and baked goods on the table.



What a way to end our adventure...and begin our lives as a FAMILY OF FIVE!!!!




FAQ



Do you like Adoption Avenues Agency?
We are/were with Adoption Avenues. I like Radu...and think the Agency is reputable, and really is trying hard to streamline and flow and work out the kinks. A major "kink" (as mentioned) is upon travel to Addis. Radu could do a better job communicating with families about what to expect, and subsequently follow-up with them once they are home (if only to just get their opinion and discover any issues).

I wasn't a big fan of the attorney, but my husband spent quite a bit of time wining and dining him...and in the process came to know him better.Overall, there's a lack of communication between Radu, the lawyer, families, and the US Embassy...resulting (at times) in delays and frustration for families once they are in Addis Ababa.

IF families had *accurate* travel information...and IF more organization could be arranged for the families during the time spent in Addis......the agency would be almost perfect.

I hope Radu improves this one aspect (which is a major thing as being in Addis Ababa unsure when you'll be able to leave is very, very stressful). I would recommend this Agency...but would advise the use of caution when it comes to travel. Calling the lawyer and double checking the completion of the documentation prior to leaving (or expect to potentially extend your stay).

What do you wish you had in Ethiopia that you didn't bring?
CHUCKS - those blue paper/plastic waterproof bed cover things they use in hospitals. The baby kept pooping which leaked all over - despite the rubber pants, and the tight onesie, and the big Huggies diapers.

What was the one thing you a GLAD you brought?
A Z-PAK (antibiotics), Tylenol COLD, snacks, and soy-based (lactose free) formula!!

Did you like your Airline?
Emirates was WONDERFUL!! One stop each way. Non-stop from the west coast. Great service, wonderful food, kid friendly...

Word of advice?
Call Abebe (the lawyer) prior to your departure and make sure he has everything he needs (including the medical exam) and everything has been submitted to the US Embassy at least 7 days before your embassy appointment.

Call your Congressperson prior to your departure and get a contact person on their staff that you can call if you have trouble with the Embassy in Addis.

What did you worry about that you shouldn't have?
Taking my bio kids.

What decision were you most confident about?
Staying at the Sheraton.

Did anyone get sick?
No one.

How was the baby doing when you arrived?
Not well. She was sick, lethargic, dehydrated, with infected chicken-pox scars and distended belly with very watery diarrhea and obvious abdominal pain.

How did you make her better?
Gave her multiple baths and applied various ointments, topical antibiotics, and zithromax. Symptomatic care, scabies medications, ear and eye drops, PLUS change in formula to soy-based.

Did travel/jetlag get to you?
Yes and no. It wasn't too bad...except waking up at 3am for the first 4 days of the trip. Now home, going to bed as late as possible upon our return (which for me was 6pm). Woke at almost 5am...and feel good. A bit of headache, nausea, lightheadedness, and sorethroat...all rapidly resolved with one dose of Excedrin, cup of lemonade, and some pepcid.

Best decision (outside of the one to adopt in the first place).
Taking our sister with us.

Worst decision.
Calling the Embassy...and holding...resulting in $300 bill. Using Scott Nordwall as our travel agent.

What's wrong with Scott?
I liked the amount of time he spent explaining to us the various travel options. I liked the fact that he*is* responsive. I didn't like his lack of initiative. He seemed to put off making our seat assignments, mailing our tickets/receipts out, and didn't really offer anything above and beyond simply making the reservations...something I could have (?should have) done myself online. The pearls of wisdom you'd hope to get from a travel agent are lacking...such as preferred seats, securing group seating, bassinets,etc. I would not use his agency again.

Travel Advice?
Try to get seats close to the front of the plane...to avoid having to wait in long line at immigration/customs. Avoid sitting in the back row or near the lavatory. Bring water on board, but don't drink it until the end of the flight (once they run out of water drinks towards the end of a long trip). Try to get the fewest amount of stops possible. Go on seatguro and check your seat assignments and see how you like them. Bring your own pillow and blankets. If you fly Emirates you don't need your ipod, DVDs, etc. Be sure to go online and request the type of meal you'd like. Get changeable tickets.

Did you like the Sheraton?
We loved the Sheraton. Rooms were about $250/night...and they have drivers, shuttles, restaurants, etc. The guest house is also nice...but with young kids...we are happy we stayed at the Sheraton.